The question I get asked most by artists is, “How do I promote my music for very little money?”. This is likely the biggest hurdle every musician faces, especially once they learn that promoting their music can costs as much as 100 times more than actually making their music. I remember when I learned this sad reality when I made my first music video and was dismayed by the costs because it made apparent the ol’ saying, “the rich get richer”. That is, rich musicians or whoever has the backing of a major label can leapfrog over everyone, despite the merits of their music, because they have the marketing budget to do so.
Now since I love a good challenge for the next twelve months I’m going to do an experiment which is to get one million plays on Soundcloud for one of my songs. Not only that I’m going to document exactly how I’m going to do this in the hopes that you will learn how to market your own music on a shoe string budget. Now I’m not going to promise I’m going to complete this challenge, it all depends on how much interest you show on it. I need that encouragement damn it!
Okay now let me explain how this is going to work and then I’ll jump into my strategy for the first month.
So I feel like I should place some rules on this experiment so that twelve months from now I don’t hear “oh but he did this” and “oh but he did that”. Listen you “oh but” peeps, sit your candy ass down.
Rule#1: I can’t spend more than $100 per month
Why $100? I totally picked that number out of the air but feel like most artists could afford this amount granted they lay off the drugs, alcohol, fast food and Jordans for a month (more like a day).
Also for all intents and purposes this a laughable amount: Drake spends more wiping his ass. But the point is to show you that it is possible to get to one million plays on Soundcloud without spending millions. On a completely unrelated side note, did you know Donald Trump spent $5 million on ads on Twitter? He apparently spent virtually no money otherwise on traditional forms of advertising.
Rule#2: I can’t do anything shady
This is a nice segway from Trump: I hate when people get rich or famous by doing anything shady and so will attempt this experiment by being above board throughout. The litmus test is: would I feel comfortable telling my biggest fans what I did. If you don’t care about your fans, make it something like Would you feel comfortable telling Jesus what you did? If you don’t believe in Jesus, than just substitute it for someone you really care about. It’s sort of like the cheating test: would you be comfortable telling your significant other what you did at your best friend’s bachelor party in Vegas? If not than you probably cheated.
Cheating for our purposes includes things like buying fake plays or fake comments or renaming my song to an already popular song otherwise known as “title spamming”.
A Little Context
To put this experiment into context I am not a brand new artist, but to 99.999% of the world I am. Currently, my song “Pull Up” which I released in May 2014 is my most played song on Soundcloud with 34,000 plays. I also have 587 followers on Soundcloud, which isn’t a lot. I only mention this to show that as far as success on Soundcloud goes, I am about average. I do, however, have close to 70,000 fans on Facebook and over 20,000 subscribers on Youtube. I also had a video that went viral on Youtube in 2013.
Currently the song I’m looking to promote has a whopping 277 plays and 19 likes, getting to one million is going to be long way up from here.
Oh yeah you can check out my song by clicking here.
Before Promoting Your Music Do This
Now before I start telling the world about my new song, I’m going to want to make sure I’ve got the following things done:
I’m not going to promote a song I’m not sure about.
In other words, I want to be 100% confident in the product I’m putting out into the world because I’m putting my name on it and will be promoting it for the next year. My rule of thumb is if you’re unsure of what song to push, then that alone should tell you not to push that song.
The Who’s That Test
If you’re still not sure, play your song for strangers and see if they ask “who’s that?” instead of saying something like “turn that trash off”. If you see your song passing the “who’s that” test, you are on the right track as people are showing genuine interest. Whenever I’m out with my friends and new person jumps in the car, since I’m usually designated dj anyway, I usually will slip in my own song. If that person is like, “Hey homie turn it up” or “who is this?” or some kind of positive reaction I know I’ve got something.
Mixed and Mastered
Yes I know cheap plug. But you’re going to want to make sure your song has been mixed and mastered and sounds good sonically as I’ve never heard a song with one million plays on Soundcloud that sounds like trash. Since I’m a professional audio engineer with an obscene amount of experience, this isn’t a problem.
The song that I will be promoting has passed all these tests and is ready to be promoted. Here is what I’m going to do in the first month.
Month #1: All Hail The Repost King
Start date: November 23, 2016
Current Plays: 277
Current Likes: 19
One of the main ways you can increase your plays on Souncloud is by getting others to repost your song. This should be pretty obvious to you or else you wouldn’t be reading this.
The thing is we don’t just want anybody to repost our song, we want people who have big followings to repost our song. The reason, again should be pretty obvious, as when they repost your song it’ll show on the feed of all of their followers.
But how to find people to repost your song?
The first thing I’m doing is searching for accounts who are posting the same kind of music as I’m making: in this case hip hop. However “hip hop” is too broad a genre as there’s like one thousand sub-genres within hip hop alone (rap polka anyone?). If your song is a 90’s throwback, it doesn’t make sense hitting up people who post trap bangers. So I want to find accounts that are posting very similar music to the kind I’m making. In my case, this song has a Kanye/Travis Scott feel, so I’ll be looking out for accounts that fall into that same vibe.
I can do this by clicking on the tags within my own song or by using Soundcloud’s search. Anyone who’s a known rapper or dj or personality or website I’m going to avoid as they get thousands of messages per day. Also if they post only mainstream well known acts, I’m probably going to avoid them as well. I should note that if you do have legitimate access to one of these kind of high profile people, get on your hands and knees and beg them to repost one of your songs (just joking, don’t degrade yourself like that…unless…nevermind).
Avoid the Fakes and the Snakes
Since I don’t know any famous dudes, I’ll be hitting up Soundcloud accounts that have decent followings (5k to 100k followers) and asking them to repost my song. I won’t be hitting up anyone who seems like they have a bunch of fake followers. How do you tell someone has fake followers? Just look at their follower engagement. In other words, if they have a million followers and only 10 likes and 2 comments on a song, something isn’t right. I do believe the engagement ratio on Soundcloud is much lower than on other social networks, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Soundcloud accounts that are selling reposts are not exactly run by the most honest people nor will they offer anything that remotely resembles good customer service. I suspect most of these accounts are run by either teens or people in far of places like Macedonia (Shout out to Macedonia, if you’re from there I love you). So you should be suspicious as to how they acquired their following and when in doubt assume it’s mostly fake followers.
Once you’ve found an account that seems legitimate (and I have no doubt owners of fake accounts will be reading this post to try to reverse engineer their account to look more legit) it’s time to message them.
Here is a script I will be using, feel free to use it (but obviously modify it slightly).
Hey *insert name*
I’ve been following you for a minute now and I’m loving what you’re posting. I have a song you and your followers may enjoy. It would make my day if you could listen to it and give me some feedback as I’m trying to get better.
*Link to song*
That’s it. Notice we’re not asking for a repost right away? Why? Because we first want to establish that this account is actually owned by a human with a pulse that actually checks their soundcloud messages. Secondly, asking for a repost right away is like asking a girl to marry you the first time you see her. We obviously, don’t need to become best friends with them, but it’s surprising how much you can learn from someone from just one email.
I’m an already insanely busy person, but for the purposes of showing this experiment, I’m aiming to send out one message per day for the next 30 days. If I can do that, I believe you can send 100 messages in one month.
Now assuming 10% respond, that would be about 3 people responding from 30. That would be a good amount. This is when I would likely pop the question and ask them if they would repost my song. If they respond, “no” they don’t like the song, I’ll offer them money, just to see what kind of person they are but don’t message them again (just joking). I would probably leave them alone and see what the people that like my song are saying. I’m also going to track everyone I send to using an excel spreadsheet with just their soundcloud link profile to possibly follow up with them in a month.
Let’s just focus on the people that are responding and that like my song. If they like it and will post it for free great, if they ask for payment, I’d try to work out something based on how many followers they have. Since my budget is only $100 a month, I’d aim to give the majority of that to the account with the most followers and most engagement. Then with whatever is left over spend it on the other two people that like my song.
This is going to be awesome and crazy and we’re going to have a lot of fun with this. I’m also going to be updating you next month with what I learned from this experiment as well the results. If you have any tips or tricks you’ve done that you’d like to share or like me to try for next month let me know (sharing is caring bro).
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